Backwards and Forwards

Just prior to Christmas I had a coaching session with Timbo. What made it interesting was he was in his College dorm room in the USA and I was sitting in my office in Melbourne. Isn’t technology amazing!

Tim needed a pep talk. He was worried about his game and thinking about making some swing changes. This is a side effect of Pesky running the show – he hates you ignoring him and likes to dish up all sorts of advice for you to try. He can be a hard beast to keep quiet, but you really do need to shut him out.

In Timbo’s case he was working on some unnecessary (in my opinion) backswing drills. He was looking into a mirror and working on positioning the club here and there. I call this looking backwards.

Although it seems like a good idea, backwards golf is rarely helpful. Positioning the club and trying to get anything good from it is all but impossible. Why?

Because you’re taking your focus off hitting the ball. You’re getting away from what the game is about. You’re activating your conscious mind and falling for the rookie mistake: that you can think your way out of a swing issue.

You can’t. So what’s the solution?

In Timbo’s case I told him to forget about mirror work and take his practice session to the range. Instead of looking backwards, he needed to fix his gaze forwards – to hit the ball and try different shots.

– hit the ball low
– hit it high
– curve the ball left to right
– bend it back to the left
– and try all sorts of combinations

When Tim learns to hit all of these shots his backswing will take care of itself. He will have explored the full gamut of positions and learning will take place. It’s not always obvious, but improvement will be there. How does this happen?

It’s simple – when you’re able to hit a variety of shots your swing is close to perfect. It’s natural learning and sorta how we do almost all other skills. The tough part is realising you can do it without a lot of conscious thought. The really hard part is getting off the couch and giving it a go.

Looking forwards takes some trust and Pesky will hate you for it (he can be a little shit and will be screaming for your attention) but you’ve gotta be strong and keep going. You’ve got to keep ignoring him. You’ve got to be brave.

On the golf course, the equivalent of looking backwards is worrying about your swing and score (or some other garbage). Looking forwards is asking yourself,

How far is it and what club do I need?

And then swinging like there’s no tomorrow.

Footnote: If you’d be interested in some conversational coaching via the Internet then let me know. Contact me here.

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  • Cam280

    Reply Reply January 29, 2013

    Played the other day, one of the tees we approached happened to be 50 back from its usual position. Theres a bank on the O.B line, that will feed your ball back to the fairway. I said to my compadres, ‘just hit the bank’, although I envisaged a nice draw, I hit a low slice, which hit the bank and went O.B then fed back to the fairway. Sure I had a look, but hey I hit the bank!.

  • Gregor

    Reply Reply January 30, 2013

    There have been a couple of posts lately that have got me thinking. This one, and the one with the video of the old guy who made up shots as he went round. They have made me realise that while I might analyse the shot required and what club I need, I then just basically swing and hope for the best. I am missing out the low, high, fade, draw bit. This might seem a bit odd, but when the other day I hit a deliberate draw round a bush and felt great it made me wonder what I have been doing with my game of late. I used to hit shots like that all the time and never gave it a second thought. I feel better already.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply January 30, 2013

      Gregor: Good stuff – I think many of us have forgotten what the objective of the game is, “to hit the ball into a hole”. To do this requires some imagination and an ability to get out of our own way as we explore the best way. I think this blog sorta sneaks up on you, giving you a bit here and a little there, but it helps you find the right path :).

  • Steady

    Reply Reply January 30, 2013

    Hi Cam,
    Whose been in Timbos ear other than pesky ? any way you said “You’re activating your conscious mind and falling for the rookie mistake: that you can think your way out of a swing issue.”
    Your advice to
    – hit the ball low
    – hit it high
    – curve the ball left to right
    – bend it back to the left
    – and try all sorts of combinations
    Is what’s needed.
    To KNOW what it Feels like to hit those shots and execute.
    Graet Advice.
    Ta Steady

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply January 30, 2013

      Steady: The most profound thing I wrote is “you’ve gotta get off the couch”. Most won’t even try or will read it or go “yeah, I already do that” or “that won’t work for me”. Shame really, coz the traditional way doesn’t work too well.

  • James Smith

    Reply Reply January 30, 2013

    I’ve always been taught to work on my “mechanics” on the practice range, not on the golf course. It seems much wiser to me to practice the same way you play; automatically. Not to say you can’t play good golf using a classical mindset, but the truly memorable shots are always played automatically. 🙂

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